Russia’s defending Men’s Doubles champions, Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov, exited the 25th European Championships last evening in devastating fashion as the latter suffered a horrible injury in the homestretch of their absorbing semi-final.
Locked 16-16 in the third game of a thrilling battle with Denmark’s fourth seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, the YONEX All England champions’ dreams of retaining their title came crashing down as Sozonov fell to the floor writhing in pain, leaving Ivanov to try to keep another intense rally going single-handedly at La Roche-sur Yon in France.
The Danes apologetically took the point to make it 17-16 and after lengthy treatment Sozonov was forced to retire.
The tournament doctor reported a broken right tendon and Badminton Europe Events Director Jimmy Andersen said: “We are going to try to get an ultrasound scan at the hospital to see if that’s the case.”
Astrup and Rasmussen progressed (21-19 14-21 17-16 retired) to battle team-mates Mads Conrad and Mads Kolding for the gold. The No.2 seeds defeated England’s third seeds Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis, 21-14 21-14.
The Russians’ unfortunate demise also ended the unique possibility of all the defending champions retaining their titles; something that has never happened in the history of the European Championships.
Meanwhile, Denmark’s durable Christinna Pedersen – as always assisted by Joachim Fischer Nielsen (Mixed Doubles) and Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Women’s Doubles) – gave herself the chance to walk away with another two continental honours. She and the equally resilient Fischer Nielsen cast aside the challenge of the Netherlands’ best in Mixed Doubles. They beat Jacco Arends and Selena Piek – herself in the hunt for two golds – 21-17 21-8.
Pedersen and Rytter Juhl also enjoyed a comfortable outing versus another Dutch pair, Samantha Barning and Iris Tabeling, winning 21-9 21-13 and will now bid for their fourth title together to go with Rytter Juhl’s two Mixed titles while Pedersen is aiming for a second Mixed title in the final. In the Women’s Doubles showdown, the Danes will tackle Piek and Eefje Muskens. The Dutch No.2 seeds beat Denmark’s Maiken Fruegaard and Sara Thygesen, 21-17 21-17.
Apart from Men’s Doubles, Denmark are also assured of gold and silver in Men’s Singles and Mixed Doubles. In the latter category, Niclas Nohr and Sara Thygesen thwarted their team-mates, Mathias Christiansen and Lena Grebak (15-21 21-18 21-17).
Defending Men’s Singles champion Jan Jorgensen defeated England’s Rajiv Ouseph, 21-11 21-16, while fellow Dane, Viktor Axelsen, got the better of Germany’s 2012 champion Marc Zweibler, 21-10 23-21.
Jorgensen defeated Axelsen in straight games two years ago but this final promises to be a greater contest.
The European powerhouse’s hopes of a clean sweep vanished when Spain’s title holder and double World champion Carolina Marin beat No.3 seed, Line Kjaersfeldt, 23-21 21-15 despite suffering a shoulder scare in the first game.
Then second seed Kirsty Gilmour conjured up victory from the jaws of defeat in a gripping tussle with unseeded Anna Thea Madsen winning 17-21 21-18 21-19 with all the drama and excitement coming at the end with Gilmour winning on her second match point after diving to get the shuttle over the net then getting up in time to carry on the rally and finally clipping the winning shot before the scampering Madsen could respond.
“It was a crazy final point,” said Gilmour, who is now the first Scot to secure a singles medal at any Europeans. Her guaranteed silver will be the best achievement by a Scot at any Europeans but tomorrow she is going for gold, encouraged by the fact that she has beaten Marin once before – at the 2014 Spanish Open – but trails 4-1 overall.
Reflecting on her progress to the championship match, Marin said: “I am happy to be in the final. I was a little scared because I could feel some pain in my (left) shoulder but I didn’t want to let it worry me and I was able to relax in the second game.
“The final is going to be very tough. I don’t want to feel the pressure. I want to enjoy the game and enjoy this amazing crowd.”